Outside the room
As mentioned in some of the previous posts on this blog, Breakin’ Escape base their games loosely round blockbuster movies. Back in Romania, the parent brand makes no pretence of the subject matter, with most of the games having the film title as part of the room name. Over in the UK, they’re sensibly a little more circumspect. While I know the origin of most of the games, I suspect most players won’t generally notice. This one, however, is a little more overt, both in story and in decoration.
Spaceships are spaceships, and I’d challenge anyone to say that this is a Star Wars-based room based on the majority of the decoration but, when you get a little ‘droid with a domed head painted grey, white and red (edited: this originally said blue – the owners got in touch to tell me it was inaccurate), it’s hard not to notice. Add in a rebel alliance, even if it uses lowercase, and an attempt to destroy a space station while its shields are down, and I think you’re making it pretty clear that this is a Death Star game. How you feel about that will depend very much on how you feel about IP infringement. Is it a loving tribute or a crass rip-off? I’ll leave you to decide.
With the expansion of the human race on other planets, an oppressive regime has risen to power and instated a dictatorship on the Colonial Republic, the dreaded Alpha One faction. You and your team are part of a rebel alliance trying to overthrow the regime and reinstate democracy.
A massive assault will take place on the Horizon Alpha space station, serving as the Alpha One headquarters, which aims to destroy it, thus sparking a revolution on all planets. Your mission is to infiltrate the station and deactivate the shields in time so that the assault may be successful.
Without the shields down, the entire offensive will become a suicide mission. Good luck, you are the galaxy’s only hope!
Inside the room
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so utterly overwhelmed on walking into an escape room. There were so many possibilities about how this game would start that we could easily have walked round for ten minutes making almost no progress. When we finally did work out the first step, it was almost entirely unexpected given the room we were in – I imagine few teams solve the first puzzle without a clue.
As with other Breakin’ rooms, it’s entirely linear, so that first step has to be completed before you can go any further. For me, that lack of direction is a flaw. Escape games are all about flow and, if you throw people into a room without giving them any hint of where to start and with only one possible action to proceed, I think you’re setting up teams to get frustrated.
Of course, once you get going, the linear nature means that there’s a clear suggestion of what you might need to get onto next. Whatever new panel becomes available, or whatever new prop appears, is likely to make it clear what interaction is required of you. As soon as we found our start point, this game flowed well. That doesn’t mean the puzzles are easy, though – we had to think hard to solve this room.
The puzzles definitely seemed to favour a certain type of mind that enjoys pattern-matching. If you’re a fan of searching, there’s not much to be done in this game, although what searching there is is incredibly hard. You’ll also be presented with red herrings galore, which always frustrates me. I can see why they’ve done that here, but the fun for me is solving puzzles, not working out which bits of a game I need to ignore. This game requires some teamwork – while all of the Breakin’ games have a minimum booking of three people, this was the only one that actually required all three people to complete a puzzle.
War on Horizon Alpha really deserved an exciting finale: you’ve got to drop the shields so that the rebel alliance can destroy the space station. This seems like something that should be impressive but the room didn’t quite deliver. In fact, while we thought we’d probably reached the end of the game, it was only when we checked whether the clock had finished its countdown that we were sure.
We exited the room after 28 minutes having received two useless clues – one of which told us something we already knew and the other arriving after we’d solved the puzzle. The cluing system, as with all the Breakin’ games, involves you radioing in for help, being given a code to enter on a tablet and then reading a clue back. While it fitted better in here than in most games, it still felt clunky.
War on Horizon Alpha is a visually impressive game with some fun puzzles but an incredibly steep learning curve. If this had been my first escape game, I’m not sure I’d have come back for more. Even with plenty of experience, it was overwhelming. Ultimately, though, it was a rewarding game to play.
I’d recommend beginners start out with some of the other Breakin’ games and work their way up to this one. Enthusiasts, head along and accept that you may need to take a clue to get you started but that, once you get going, you’ll be presented with a hard but solvable series of puzzles.
Detailed Room Ratings